“Customer Service Starts at the Top”

Nearly all managers will agree with the expression “customer service starts at the top.” They understand that culture change takes leadership and that front line employees learn from example. It is not what you direct and order people to do, but it is how you inspire and show the way by your actions. But how do you as a manager put that into practice?

rondownloadHere are six concrete actions that you can do as a manager to show that customer service starts at the top.

1. Observe the first impressions as you approach and enter the facility. Make rounds in the facility. Observe the staff. Do they greet you, greet other guests in the facility, and interact with residents? Share your observations with managers. Review the standards for customer service and for hospitality. Remind them about the importance of the standards being posted and visible.

2. Ask for names of families and residents with customer service issues. Refer to the grievance log or generate a list of customers at a meeting with department heads. Discuss with the management team the service issues with these customers. Observe the attitude and language used by the management team. A positive indicator: the team is focused on future solutions and satisfaction? They exhibit a can-do attitude. A negative indicator: the team is focused on the past and offer excuses. They have an attitude about the customer and use negative labels. They say “Nothing will work”? This is an opportunity to coach the team on how to respond.

3. Meet with some of these customers. This is your chance to get the customer perspective. Thank the customer for sharing the concern, express empathy, listen, and explain what you will do. Retain the list in your notes. On your next visit to the facility, review and update the list. Meet with or call any customer that you sensed continued dissatisfaction.

4. Talk with front line staff. Are they aware of the standards? How often are they discussed? Consider conducting a couple of small focus groups or listening sessions. Gather 6-8 employees around a table ask them to rate their satisfaction on a 1-10 scale. Ask them to rate how well everyone works as a team on a 1-10 scale. For any rating less than a 9-10, ask for suggestions on how to improve.

5. Review the last customer satisfaction report. Meet with department managers and ask if they are aware of the report. Are they aware of at least the overall satisfaction score, benchmark, and goal? What is the plan to address issues in the report? Is the plan reasonable and realistic? If not, offer suggestions.

6. Finally, ask managers who are some of the customer service champions in that building. Write a short thank you note to them and personally deliver and thank those people.

Your leadership by doing 1-2 of these tasks on each visit will show that customer service truly starts at the top.